Terracotta Army Facts

Why was the Terracotta Army Built?

At present, among all kinds of assumptions on why was the Terracotta Army built, three theories prevail and are most widely recognized. Some think that the Terracotta Army was built to guard Emperor Qin Shi Huang and his mausoleum, some think that it was constructed to commemorate Qin Shi Huang’s glorious life, and some others think the Terracotta Army was constructed to help Qin Shi Huang rule the underworld.

Reason 1: The Terracotta Army was built to protect Qin Shi Huang and his tomb.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the owner of the Terracotta Army, killed many people who opposed him when he was launching wars to the other states. One day, he dreamed that those who had been executed by him came to revenge. Qin Shi Huang was frightened by this nightmare and felt uneasy for a long time. He thought the powerful army could protect him when he was alive, but what would happen after he died? Who could protect him?

Qin Shi Huang had been nagged by the problem since then, so he decided to summon some trusted subordinates to discuss it. After listening to the problem, no one could come up with a feasible solution. Finally, a minister advised Qin Shi Huang to choose a group of soldiers to be buried together with him after death. In this way, they could not only protect the emperor, but also guard the mausoleum against tomb robbers. Qin Shi Huang felt it was too cruel to bury soldiers alive, so he hesitated.

Then another minister suggested Qin Shi Huang use earthenware soldiers instead. Qin Shi Huang thought it was a good idea, so he called the skillful craftsmen all over the country together to start making pottery warriors, which were later known as the Terracotta Army. 

So, what was the purpose of the terracotta warriors? The most important purpose is to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. 

Reason 2: The Terracotta Army was made to show Qin Shi Huang’s glory. 

This is also an important reason on why was the Terracotta Army built. Qin Shi Huang considered himself as an unprecedented great emperor in China’s history for his achievements, like defeating other states and unifying China, standardizing the units of measurements, language, characters, and currencies. Among all the achievements, the most brilliant one is defeating other states to unite China. He wanted the later generations to remember his triumph over the other states and what his army has done for this country, so he ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army modelling on a real army of him to show his glory.

Reason 3: The Terracotta Army was made to help Qin Shi Huang to rule the underworld in the afterlife.

After Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne, he became more and more infatuated with power and wanted to rule the country permanently, so he tried many ways to become immortal. However, he gradually felt it impossible after repeated failures. Then he began to confront death and thought how to keep his power even after he died. In ancient China, it was said that people would go to another world underground in the afterlife. Qin Shi Huang believed that the inanimate funerary objects such as animal and human statues would come to life in the underworld, so that he could still enjoy the emperor’s life and rule in the afterlife. With this powerful underground army, he could defend against other states in the underworld as well. This can explain why did Qin Shi Huang build the mausoleum and what was the purpose of the Terracotta Warriors.

- Last updated on Jul. 31, 2020 -
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